One of the first things people rush to when discovering and beginning to follow a Pagan path is altars. They see pretty pictures on the internet and rush to assemble one. My advice? Wait.
As humans we are very attracted to the aesthetic of pretty things. Of course we are! Everyone wants things around them to be their idea of beautiful. Altars should be an exception.
When I get students who want to learn from me, the first thing I tell them is “If you have an altar, strip it.” When I was first seeking a teacher I was sooooo mad when I was told to do this. How dare they! There’s a reason, kids.
Removing everything that you’ve accumulated lets you go back to fundamentals. For those who’ve not yet discovered fundamentals it gives you a chance to really work on things first – before diving into the pool during adult swim. Please be respectful that this is a religion. You don’t just show up to a church and shout “I’m Catholic! Give me a shot of wine and a cracker!” It’s now how this works. It’s not how any of this works.
While there are many beginner books I adore, I sort of hate the whole self-initiation thing. I think in most cases people read a website, see a video, or read a few chapters of a book and go “Yep I’m 100% witch now.” or “I read most of that book … and I’m 200% Wiccan!” Please. Please?
Take some time to learn something from someone else. Even if all you learn is how to make some incense and a good bread recipe. Don’t assume you know everything and I think it’s a good idea to refrain from assembling an altar right out of the chute.
Here’s what’s most likely to happen. You dabble. You’re sort of into it so you buy stuff for aesthetics. No shame! We’ve all done it! You spend all this money on stuff for it to sit in part of a room that you don’t really touch. Now it is a source of contempt. All that money wasted on something that is meaningless to you. Just avoid that whole cycle!
I am not an authority to tell anyone how they should do things – but I have seen this cycle again and again. My position is to inform from the standpoint of experience only. Take that as you will!
That small statement bothers me. It bothers me to no end!
When I really started getting serious about my spirituality I was told by the majority to “only use what is needed.” But what’s really needed?
I get insulted when someone’s idea of what’s needed is forced upon me. To be totally honest, nothing physical is ‘needed’ for spell work – or anything regarding religion as a whole.
Some mentors have people disassemble their altars, and some get really upset when asked to do this. I think its a good exercise in order for individuals to decide exactly what it is they feel they need. Its a good way to (pardon my language) clear the bullshit and get down to the real deal. Some, over time, accumulate a lot of things that do not serve them. Magical Hoarders, if you will.
Personally, I feel my spiritual path is beyond just need. It is a representation of my spirit. Do I need incense? No. I like it!
Many items on my altar are there because I feel I need them. There are even some items not present that others say are ‘needed’. I have a censer which is about to be replaced by just a cauldron. I have a chalice which was replaced by a bowl.
I prefer to tell people:
You need whatever you feel you need.
How do you know what you need until you’ve had it? For example: I have absolutely no use for a chalice. I have one on my altar, but its very small and it doesn’t get used. I have a small crystal bowl which I keep charged salt, Goddess (rain) water, and a stone of some kind which represents what it is I hope to ‘evaporate’ into my space. Though the stone, of course, never evaporates – I like to visualize that the stone is also charging its properties into the water which I use to bless myself, the area – and by the act of evaporation – blesses my whole house.
Obtain any tool your spirit thinks you need. If it turns out you have no use for it – hang on to that tool! A young Pagan’s spirit may be calling out for that tool and you may cross paths! I try to pass my unused or replaced tools down to someone else.
Witch-cycling. Its like recycling, but for witches!